FAMILIES of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos of the Philippine National Police (PNP) brutally killed two years ago urged Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales on Wednesday to hold accountable all those involved in the botched Mamasapano anti-terrorist operation, including former President Benigno Aquino 3rd.
Carrying a cross containing the names of the slain troopers, the SAF 44 families went on a “March for Justice” to the Ombudsman a day after the government’s graft prosecutor charged two former police officials for graft and usurpation of official functions but left out Aquino who authorized the January 25, 2015 raid.
“There’s no justice until now,” cried Telly Sumbilla, mother of Police Officer (PO) 3 John Lloyd Sumbilla who was slain and mutilated by gunmen at Mamasapano in Maguindanao.
“After he was gunned down, they took out his eyes. They severed his arms. Then they just covered him with banana leaves. Tell me. What would I feel?” Sumbilla said in a news conference before the march that marked the second anniversary of the carnage.
Nicky Nacino, father of 32-year-old PO2 Nicky Nacino Jr. who left behind a wife and child, told The Times: “We need justice. It seems like nothing will happen to this case, just like the other cases. All promises.”
Aquino being ‘shielded’
Lawyer Ferdinand Topacio questioned why the Ombudsman did not include Aquino in the charges filed Tuesday at the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court against former PNP chief Alan Purisima and former SAF director Getulio Napeñas.
Carpio-Morales, he said, could be impeached if she continues to drag her feet on the case.
“As the nation marked the second commemoration of the gruesome killings today, the Ombudsman hurriedly announced they have filed cases only of usurpation and graft against the PNP leadership then at the Sandiganbayan, without naming Aquino,” Topacio said.
“It seems Aquino is being shielded. Is she (Ombudsman Morales) afraid of the person who appointed her?” Topacio asked.
Dante Jimenez, founding chairman of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), said the SAF men were not only put into the “lion’s den” but in the “quick sands of death.”
Jimenez echoed President Rodrigo Duterte’s statements before the SAF families on Tuesday in Malacañang, during which the Chief Executive lashed out at Aquino, his predecessor, for failing to help the police commandos during the ill-fated operation.
The operation, known as Oplan Exodus, resulted in the killing of international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir. But over 60 people, including 44 members of the SAF, were killed in a gun battle with Muslim rebels who were protecting the terrorist.
In July last year, the VACC, represented by Topacio, filed a case of reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide against those behind the operation, including Aquino.
“We have found out that the Ombudsman only asked the respondents to reply last December and we were not informed nor a notice was sent to us. We only learned that we were supposed to comment on the reply through Mrs. Sumbilla who received a notice via courier,” Topacio said.
He noted that even the PNP’s Board of Inquiry held Aquino responsible for bypassing the police force’s chain of command.
He also accused the then Justice secretary, now Sen. Leila de Lima, of covering up Aquino’s role, citing a report by the National Bureau of Investigation “filled with erasures.”
“Literally a cover up,” Topacio said as he showed the report.
Morales shrugs off threat
Morales, appointed Ombudsman by Aquino in 2012, on Wednesday shrugged of Topacio’s threat of impeachment.
“Never mind VACC. Let them charge me. Let them prove that I am covering up [for somebody]. If they fail to prove it, beware,” Morales told reporters at the sidelines of a women’s summit in Pasay City.
“I understand the VACC filed a case against him (Aquino) [before my office]. And just because somebody filed against him we will file it right away [before the Sandiganbayan]? No. You have to conduct a preliminary investigation. That’s where the due process comes in,” Morales, a former Supreme Court associate justice, pointed out.
Morales however bared that she was investigating the former chief of records of the Ombudsman’s Office of the Special Prosecutor for the delayed filing of cases against Purisima and Napeñas, which she said should have been lodged with the Sandiganbayan in June 2016.
“If not for the press, we would not have discovered it was not filed at all. There are so many cases against Purisima. Purisima here, Purisima there. I go over several cases and presume that the case was filed. So, when it was discovered it was not filed, as I tell you, I gave her a show-cause order to explain within 24 hours why she should not be faulted,” Morales said.